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Riot Tact (National Geographic)

(Reprinted without permission from National Geographic's June 2009 issue; unavailable on the Web site.)

After Israel invaded Gaza last winter, protests sprang up in Europe. Firebombs and tear gas were part of the mix—though not in Sweden, thanks to a new kind of crowd control.
    Actually, "crowd control" is the wrong phrase, says Ola Österling, coordinator of the Stockholm police's four-year-old "dialogue group." Rather than focus on cowing a crowd, officers look at its members. If a person acts criminally, the cops step in. They also encourage organizers to monitor their events. "We are nervous every time," says Österling. But the approach is promising. In Stockholm, Gaza protesters wanted to crowd Israel's embassy, but listened when their leaders called for restraint.
    Clifford Stott helps teach this tactic to Sweden's police. A social psychologist at the University of Liverpool, he studies soccer riots (local fans are famously wild). His conclusion? If teams of officers are embedded in a crowd, they aren't seen as a threat and can quietly nab hooligans. Last season police tried his method on fans of England's national team at away games. For fun, Stott asks folks to guess the arrest tally—6, 60, 600, or 6,000? Most say 6,000. The answer: 6.  —Marc Silver


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 20th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
Dear gods that's brilliant. Far too often, police actively want to act like jack-booted thugs, its' wonderful to learn that not only is someone trying an alternative, but the alternative works vastly better.
May. 20th, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC)
Yes. I am so very pleased. I don't do the LJ thing very much these days, but this struck me as an idea that needs to spread.
May. 21st, 2009 12:55 am (UTC)
Wow! That is awesome! And it is so much better than "designated free speech zones" and other unconstitutional nonsense.
May. 21st, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
The short article is accompanied by four photos of the same London police officer in different states of dress: the basic shirt and tie combination; adding the hat, coat, and communicator; then a mask and heavy coat; and finally, heavy gloves, armor, and riot helmet with transparent face plate. Which of these versions are you more likely to trust when you spot him in a crowd? Which ones might be more likely to insight panic and cause more harm than good?
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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